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"Never Feel Sorry For Anyone Who Owns an Airplane."-- Tina Marie

If Something Seems To Be Too Good To Be True, It's Best To Shoot It, Just In Case." -- Fiona Glenanne

Flying the Airplane is More Important than Radioing Your Plight to a Person on the Ground
Who is Incapable of Understanding or Doing Anything About It.
" -- Unknown

"There seems to be almost no problem that Congress cannot, by diligent efforts and careful legislative drafting, make ten times worse." -- Me

"What the hell is an `Aluminum Falcon'?" -- Emperor Palpatine

"Eck!" -- George the Cat

Friday, June 19, 2015

Western Movie Saloons

Why do the saloons always have glass in the windows (some cowboy always gets tossed through one), but the doorway is wide open with only a pissant swinging door that's only there for dramatic effect?  The doorway can't be closed off to cut out a cold wind or snowdrifts, even if the movie is set in Montana. 

Inquiring minds....


Deadstick said...

Forget the cold wind...what could they do at closing time?

Sdv1949 said...

^^^^ Closing time? Never been to NOLA, right?

mikey said...

At the risk of stupid mansplaining.

The double saloon doors was an affectation. There was another set of doors that cold be closed and locked, but during business hours the doors were calculated to be welcoming. They didn't preclude a lockup when closed - they just welcomed money spenders when they were open...

CenterPuke88 said...

In several of Eastwood's Westerns, you can actually see a second set of door inside the saloon.

Now, Key West, on the other hand, has exactly some of this problem along the main drag. We were there when they predicted record cold and told people to get their pets and plants inside, it was gonna drop down to 49! But all along the street, there were no doors to close, only hurricane shutters that would really close the business.

BadTux said...

I've actually walked into multiple real Western saloons from the 1800's. Every one of them has actual doors and do *not* have the "batwing" doors. Some have glass (mostly the fancier ones), others are just plain wooden doors, one has double glass paned doors, none of them have those swinging half-doors. BTW, every one of them also has normal double hung wooden windows with small panes of glass, not the big glass storefront-type windows of the movie saloons, you'd be hard pressed to throw a cowboy through any of those windows. And the saloons themselves are all long and narrow with a fairly small front and with the bar perpendicular to the front (i.e., it's to the left or right as you walk into the bar, and goes *way* back).

My guess is that the movie Western saloons are based on the Los Angeles area saloons of the early 1900's when the movie industry was first relocating to the Los Angeles area. Los Angeles has a very hot climate during the summertime so the wooden doors would have been open during the daytime, as well as the one or two front windows being open. The swinging doors would have been there because of temperance movement pressure to keep the alcohol and actual bar from being directly visible from the street, but still providing enough ventilation above and below it to give some relief from the heat. The movie saloons move the bar to the back of the main room so that the barkeep can glare ominously at the person coming through the door and are very wide so that the camera can pan across the room from a point just inside the door (presumably the point of view of the outlaw who just walked through the door as he scans looking for the good guy he's there to kill) but I've never seen a real saloon from the 1800's like that, they're all long and narrow and somewhat cave-like.

Anonymous said...

Mostly the glass is affectation. Because people today can't imagine windows without glass. But it was crazy expensive in an old-west town. And it was never as good as the glass you see in the movies.

Windows had shutters. You opened them when it was hot. Closed them when it was cold. And dealt with the bugs and dust.

BadTux said...

The presence of glass depended upon the prosperity of the town, how long it existed, and its proximity to a railroad. A small farming or ranching town would have shutters as you describe, and no glass windows. Saloons in some of the more temporary mining communities wouldn't even have that much, they'd basically be tents on a stacked rock foundation with a single wooden doorframe and door, a tent and wooden door being much easier to haul over rough roads in a buckboard than the materials needed to construct a real building.

Glass however was a very prestige item, as were double-hung windows, so once a railroad came to town saloons would import glass from the nearest industrial town with a glass blower. Said glass of course was not perfectly flat nor perfectly clear, it either being cylinders of blown glass cut open and flattened, or sheet glass pressed through rollers in a process similar to this (which is in a factory dating back to the 1880's using much of the original equipment). But as I noted, saloons were long and narrow and cave-like so there was never more than one or two small windows, neither large enough to throw a cowboy through. Not to mention that a fight that started in the middle of the saloon, there's no windows there to throw anybody through anyhow -- there's the bar on one side, and the wall abutting the next shop in town on the other side.

The most affluent late 1800's Western saloon I've seen is the one in Bodie. It has wooden *double* doors with (small) glass panes in them. The rest had just a regular old wooden door, some with small glass panes in them, most without.

One thing *nobody* in a frontier town would have had in those days would have been the vast flat panes of clear float glass that you see in the movie Westerns. Industrial glass blowing eventually was able to make fairly large panes of glass using the sheet glass process above, but those large panes of glass would have been impossible to transport to some frontier town even by railroad unless said railroad was a main line. Most railroads out West other than the main transcontinental lines were spur lines rated at 25mph which had a rather bumpy ride, at best, since their primary role was to haul ore and mining equipment and supplies, not fragile items. Securing small panes of glass so they wouldn't break during transit was hard enough, nevermind giant sheets of glass... and if the frontier town wasn't near a railroad, forget it. Buckboards did a real number on glass...